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! One ton of beech sawdust - how do I transform it into mushroom heaven and not a pile of goo?

 
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I'm on the verge of getting my hands on almost 1000 kg of untreated beech sawdust. I came across a great add of a sawmill wanting to get rid of their sawdust, and it was too good to pass up on.
I initially was looking out for wood chips, but found this huge batch of sawdust instead. I am interested in using these wood chips as mulch in my sloped food forest and to add to my compost. If I could inoculate the sawdust to grow mushrooms for me and help brake down the sawdust, that would be so awesome.
BUT, my garden is far from ready to deal with the sawdust, and I'm far from having done all my research on how to grow mushrooms in beech sawdust... But the add was there NOW, and it seemed like too good an opportunity to get my hands on a huge amount of biomass.
So now I'm in a bit of a pinch.

How do I go about temporarily storing the sawdust (perhaps in the meantime inoculating it), so I can use it as soon as my beds are ready (hopefully near the end of fall), what kind of mushrooms could I grow on Beech sawdust, and how do I go about it? Should I mix the sawdust with any other matter to avoid it from compacting when decomposing?

Any advice is so welcome! Feeling a bit overwhelmed now that they are imminently going to dump a mountain of sawdust in my garden!




 
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S, What a Find!

That one ton of sawdust is an amazing score!  And kudos for wanting to break it down with mushrooms.  But first off, where to store.  My thoughts are to plop the pile right where you intend to plant a garden bed.  Even if the bed sides are not up yet, I would place it approximately there anyways.  In doing so, microbes from the earth will work their way into the pile and start the inoculation process.  And some of the microbes already in the pile will work their way into the ground.  Both groups will work their magic and your soil will be improved to at least some degree just by having the pile sit there.  As you build up bed edges, you can then move the pile into the newly raised beds.  And maybe you can put up some edges around a pile already in place?  Worth a thought.

If it were me, at that point I would think about adding in some mushroom spawn.  My favorite are Wine Caps, because they are highly aggressive, actually work well with some of the other microbes already present (those they don't work well with they will simply out compete) and will produce actual mushrooms in 6-12 months.  They are sort of like mushrooms with training wheels for mushroom newbies.  Blue oysters are also very aggressive and do a very good job (even better?) job of breaking down wood, though I personally have not tried them.

If you want more information on getting mushrooms, especially Wine Caps started, I can help you more from here.  

Great job and congrats again on obtaining a wonderful resource!

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Eric Hanson wrote:S, What a Find!

My thoughts are to plop the pile right where you intend to plant a garden bed.  Even if the bed sides are not up yet, I would place it approximately there anyways.  In doing so, microbes from the earth will work their way into the pile and start the inoculation process.  And some of the microbes already in the pile will work their way into the ground.
Eric



Hi Eric,

Thanks so much for your reply. Your idea to plop it down where I want the beds to be sounds like a good idea. Only difficulty is that the beds are going to be on a steep slope that still needs to be terraced. So I'm afraid that if I plop it down on the slope, it will just wash away when it rains. I suppose I could try building a temporary retaining wall to hold it in place. I have a flat area in my garden, but it is far from my food forest slope.

As for the mushrooms, I have no experience whatsoever on mushroom inoculation (I just LOVE eating them). Could you walk me through the process of wine cap inoculation with a sawdust pile like the one I'm expecting ?(I did find information on sawdust inoculation, but it seems like they are making bricks of the sawdust, instead of just innoculating a pile of sawdust laying around in the garden). Do I need to cover the pile, or keep it in the shade for the mushrooms to grow? Do I water the pile? Do I first spread out the pile in the beds and inoculate later, or do I just add the spores to the giant pile, let it sit for the spawn to spread and then divide the inoculated sawdust over the beds? So many questions! I'd love to hear more!

 
Eric Hanson
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S,

So if you want to try mushrooms, a Wine Cap is a fine starter mushroom.  Personally I grow them for the compost more than the mushroom itself, as to me the actual mushroom is a tasty bonus!

I will start this by assuming that you have a flat and level bed to start with.  Also, everything I am about to say is specific to wood chips and not sawdust, though I don't think there will be any major differences, and sawdust may actually be better as I will get to in a minute.  But i start with raised beds that are 12 inches/30 cm tall.  I fill up the beds and heap it full.  Given that you are using sawdust, you might not have to heap it as much.  Part of the reason for heaping is to allow for some settling.  I don't know how much sawdust will settle, but I would think it less than the wood chips (I could also be wrong).

After I get my beds in place, the next step is to excavate holes for tomatoes.  You can certainly use other plants, but here are my reasons:  The tomatoes provide dappled shade for the mushrooms as the tomatoes grow.  Also, the "roots" of the mushroom will interact with the roots of the tomato.  Finally, I get tomatoes!!  But to me, the most important part is actually the dappled shade as it helps the Wine Caps grow and helps prevent rapid evaporation of moisture from the wood--and the fungi definitely need the moisture.  In my case, I dig holes about 8 inches/20 cm deep and round and back fill with a potting soil mixture (save the excavated chips/sawdust for later).  This I amend once with some organic fertilizer; I like blood meal.  This is the first and last time I fertilize the bed with any outside amendment.  Are you OK with using your own urine?  If so, then you have an easy, free, highly effective and totally natural fertilizer right there.  Mark all the little fertile holes with a tomato tower or a stake or something.  

Now we get out the mushroom spawn.  Again, dig little holes in the surface of the bed.  At this point, I dig holes 4-6 inches/10-150 cm deep and round and connect the little holes with little trenches about 2 inches/5 cm deep and wide.  Begin sprinkling in the spawn from the brick you purchased (I am assuming you are buying commercial spawn.  If not, we can adjust) onto the bottom of the holes and trenches.  Make certain to thoroughly cover the bottom of the holes and leave a few lumps of spawn in each hole,  As you start to fill the hole, layer with chips/sawdust and add more spawn, and so on until you have reached the surface.  If you have any spawn left, sprinkle it on the surface.

Now get those chips/sawdust you saved from the fertile hole excavation.  Layer those on the top.  In my example, they add about 2 inches/5 cm.  At this point water everything down thoroughly.  You don't exactly need the bed to be soaking wet, but everything should be at least as moist as a squeezed out sponge.  In your case, maybe just a bit more as the sawdust will soak up water better than wood chips.  An optional step you might take at this point (I did not, but Hugo Morvan did and he had great results and this is now a standard part of my procedures). is to lay some cardboard or newspaper down on top of the wood (leave holes for tomatoes).  This layer is to protect the wood from drying out and it really speeds up the fungal process--it can cut in half the time needed to get an actual mushroom.  Hold that in place with either some more wood chips/sawdust, or my preference is to use straw and pile it up thickly.  Straw will reflect heat and sun, keep the wood cool and moist and Wine Caps just love to eat straw!

Lats part is to plant tomatoes in the fertile holes.  You can certainly use other veggies, but I like tomatoes because their foliage grows tall, somewhat broad, lets some air and just a little sunlight through, but really blocks out the harsher elements.  Also, the tomatoes produce a wonderful root mass that will only help the Wine Caps grow.  Actually, the two will feed each other and live in a true symbiosis.  Once everything is planted, give a second, thorough watering.  Now sit back and wait (and eat tomatoes).


I went ahead and gave a step-by-step set of instructions below in case you need a reference point:



1)  Since you plan on using bricks, get them started first.  Maybe rake any obvious pine needles, pine litter off the surface, but this is not strictly necessary. (This step was actually for someone else.  It means prep the site).

2)  Lay down a nice thick layer of cardboard.  This will serve as a temporary barrier against things that the Wine Caps don't like about pines.  It won't last, but hopefully by the time it breaks down, you will have plenty of mushrooms

3)  Get some bagged manure or topsoil and sprinkle to a depth of 1-2 inches.  This is just to simulate a soil base.  It is probably unnecessary, but worth a try

4)  Fill up with wood chips!  In fact, I would overfill just a bit so that the chips are slightly mounded above the edges.  If you get the wine cap spawn growing right, that level will drop significantly


******Additional optional steps detailed below


5)  Take the mushroom spawn you bought and mix in to the chips.


******Additional optional step


6)  Water down the chips

7)  Cover with 2-4 inches or so with straw (grass clippings can work as well

9) Water everything again

10)  Hurry up and wait!!  This might well take a year!


*******Additional optional steps:

If you want to use the bed to grow some vegetables the first season, you will have to have some growing medium.  The easiest is probably bagged topsoil/manure.  I use this to dig fertile holes.  A fertile hole, in this case, is a hole you will dig in your chips BEFORE you inoculate with spawn.  You simply dig a hole about 6"-12" across and deep.  Fill in with the bagged soil/manure, and then mark with a stake or a tomato tower or something so you can find it later.  Save those chips you dug out for a little bit.

Step 4.1)  Dig fertile hole and save chips

Step 4.2)  Fill hole with topsoil/manure

Step 4.3)  Mark hole with stake or something

Step 5.1)  After inoculating, spread extra chips from fertile holes (the ones you saved) and sprinkle over surface, maybe 1-2 inches deep.  This is to serve as a evaporation barrier and help maintain moisture in the inoculated chips

Step 11)  Plant your tomatoes (or other plants)  The tomatoes will

             1)  Provide dappled shade
             2)  give roots for the spawn to interact
             3)  Give you tomatoes!



This is a part of the thread I have running HERE:

https://permies.com/t/130092/mushroom-newbie


I have a second, long running thread that documents my own journey from knowing absolutely nothing about mushrooms to having 3 inoculated, functioning mushroom beds today  HERE:

https://permies.com/t/82798/composting-wood-chips-chicken-litter



S,  I know that this is all a lot to take in, so if you need any help or have any questions, please feel free to ask questions.  By the way, I have seen pictures of your land and it is indeed beautiful.  Also, I understand your concerns about the steep slopes.  At any rate, good luck and please, keep us updated.  I love seeing these projects come together.

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Hi Eric,

Thank you so much for your detailed description. I will read your other threads with great interest.
It is indeed a lot of information, but I do already have a few questions that spring to mind, if you don’t mind me asking even more things:

The beds I want to use my sawdust on are basically 3 long terraces on my slope. I’m still in the process of refining the terraces and getting the retaining walls into place. I did however already plant fruit trees and autum olive and seaberry on the terraces to get them established (and well, the tree nursery had a huge sale and I couldn’t resist). The ideal would have been to have finished the terraces first and put the trees in later, but I guess I’ll have to work around that now.
So instead of starting from scratch like you said with beds, fertile holes and tomatoes, would it work if I put a nice layer of sawdust as mulch on the terraces around the trees and Shrubs and then inoculate them on the spot?

While I’m trying to get the terraces as level as possible, I have to do everything by hand and with the trees already in place I can’t bank up too much soil on them either. So the terraces will most likely maintain a level of slope. Would this be a problem for the spawn potentially washing away?

Another thing I’m unsure about is timing. Can you inoculate the sawdust at whatever time of the year or are there certain seasons to avoid? I’m guessing my sawdust will arrive in 2-3 weeks. Should I try to inoculate before winter or does it not matter?

You asked about urine. We do not mind at all, and have been applying to our compost already. How much urine should be added in ratio to the sawdust? I have no idea how much would be too much/ too little.

I’ll be on the lookout for a shop in Europe where I can find Wind Cap spawn! How much should I need to buy to inoculate a batch of 100kg of sawdust?

Thanks so much Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi S,

Regarding the idea of mulching a bunch of chips around a tree, kinda like a tree ring, I that is an excellent use of both the sawdust and the spawn.  Funny you mention autumn olive.  I have autumn olive that is invasive by me and grows by my deliberately unattended fence lines.  When I clean out a fence line I cut down LOTS of autumn olive and use that for chipping.  Autumn olive is probably the single greatest source of wood for my chips.

Regarding the spawn needed for 100 Kg is a slightly different story.  I am not exactly how to answer that one as I done really think about the weight of the wood, rather I think about the volume of wood.  My beds are 8x16 feet/2.5-5 meters filled about 12 inches/30 cm tall.  I use two 5.5 pound/2.5 Kg bricks of spawn to inoculate that volume.  I think one of the bricks will more than supply you with the spawn needed to inoculate 100 Kg, but I would really have to see the volume first.  But even if it is not the optimal ratio, the spawn will grow in the sawdust anyways.  In fact, the spawn, once established, will eventually spread to cover a great deal of sawdust.  Increasing the initial spawn load means that you will get mushrooms faster and that requires a bit of explanation first.  After you inoculate with the spawn, the fungus will begin to digest, break down the wood and grow.  This is the part of the fungal life where sexual reproduction takes place.  The spawn are reproducing sexually so long as their food source is plentifully available.  During this phase they grow quickly, and Wine Caps grow very quickly, quicker than most.  Once their food source, the wood, is colonized and digested, the party is over.  In a last ditch effort to avoid their own mortality, the fungi push up the actual mushroom which releases the spores--the asexual part of reproduction--which blow in the wind, land on new wood and the process begins anew.  So even a tiny amount of spawn should eventually produce mushrooms, but the more spawn you start with, the faster they will consume all that sawdust.

This brings us to how mush time is needed.  You can probably guess that this will vary, but the rule of thumb is that it will take 6-12 months.  The larger the area you inoculate, the longer it will take.  You might find that you get actual mushrooms faster under the trees and bushes you want to mulch around than the garden you want to plant in.  Actually, right NOW is a good time of the year to sow Wine Caps.  If you sow now, they will have all winter to grow and colonize the sawdust substrate.  How cold does it get during your winters?  Around me, winter is a hit-or-miss affair.  With our mild temperatures and high levels of moisture, I have watched my Wine Caps really grow quickly, but freezing temperatures will put them in a sort of hibernation, so your actual climate will dictate how well they grow.  I have sown in spring, but the heat and sun of summer are not exactly good things for newly established fungi.  I suspect that if I were doing it over again I would try sowing in the fall, but that is a decision you will have to make for yourself.

Additionally, as long as you don't have actual erosion taking place, water will not wash the spawn away.  In fact, the growing fungi will help knit the sawdust together.  Still, try to protect from a deluge and fast erosion down those hills.

Last point.  Since you are OK with using urine, you might not want to dig fertile holes.  There is no reason why you shouldn't, but with sawdust, you could direct plant tomatoes into the sawdust and fertilize with urine.  The wine caps won't mind and it would be one less item to have to bring in.  It is something entirely up to you.

I hope this helps.  I am sure that you still have plenty of questions, and that is perfectly fine.  

Good Luck,

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Hi Eric,

Thanks so much again for your reply. In the meantime I've devoured your other threads about your mushroom adventures and I'm hooked. It was very informative and also a pleasure to follow your excitement with the project.
I'm very much looking forward to starting my own.

I've looked into finding places where I can buy the wine cap spawn ( wine cap is a synonym for King stropharea, right?). I've stumbled upon this site where they sell the spawn in bulk : Mushroom Box . I've never bought mushroom spawn before so I'm not familiar as to what I should be on  the lookout for when wanting to buy quality spawn. Does this site look like a good one? Or does anyone from Europe have experience with good online mushroom shops?
I already came across another mushroom shop on Etsy which looked great and had a wide choice in types of mushrooms, but when I started doing more digging I came across a lot of reviews saying the shop was a scam and all they got was mould lentils and no actual mushroom spawn.
So now I'm a bit wary to find a trustworthy site where I can order my spawn.

I was also wondering about cross contamination of spores. I've made a compost pile near my food forest beds, of which I made the retaining walls from old an half rotten wood in the hopes that the compost pile would help break down the wood and the wood would help inoculate the compost with healthy fungal activity. Now my plan seems to have worked as, after two months the wood is now going crazy with fungal activity. However, these do not appear to be an edible variety (which is all the same to me as long as they help with my compost), but I was wondering if the spores from the compost heap could contaminate my sawdust beds (with would be placed nearby). My main worry is accidentally picking a poisonous mushroom to eat thinking it is a wine cap. Are wine caps easy to be confused with other species?

Attached you'll find a picture of the lovely mushroom madness happening near my compost area. These mushrooms are luckily easy to differentiate with wine caps.
Anyone have an idea what mushrooms these are?
IMG_1243.JPG
Pretty mushrooms and not so pretty slug
Pretty mushrooms and not so pretty slug
 
Eric Hanson
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S,

I am glad that you liked the other threads.  I am especially pleased that you can get something from the longer one where I started as a total neophyte.  I included that link simply because I started out with so little--basically zero--information about growing any type of mushroom.  I kinda feel like people inherently understand the very basics about growing plants, but fungi automatically get associated with mold and therefore people get slightly phobic about them and thus never learn how to even begin step #1 of growing them intentionally.  I also think that the process becomes less intimidating if you can see just how little I knew then.  I am still no expert, but I can grow Wine Caps.  Also, as that thread demonstrates, I had a LOT of help on the way and I feel like I should pay it forward.

Regarding Wine Caps, you are absolutely correct in that the term Wine Cap is a synonym for King Stropharia.  Actually Stropharia is a more technical name and Wine Cap more of a colloquial term that I think is more familiar sounding so I try to use that one as much as possible.  Also, I understand your concern about wanting to have an uncontaminated substrate for mushroom growth, but for Wine Caps, this is not strictly necessary.  Wine Caps are so aggressive that they out compete almost every other species of mushroom.  Their one notable competitor would be the blue oyster so don't mix those two species (they will sorta arm wrestle each other to death).  It is really hard to confuse a Wine Cap with another species as they grow so large so quickly.  My first year I really did not eat very many of the Wine Caps, partially because I was still learning to identify them (don't worry, Wine Caps get so huge so quickly that they become obvious), but when a Wine Cap is so huge, the flavor goes down.  Once you know what you are looking for you can pick them while still fairly small when their taste is the best, but do so quickly for once the actual mushroom appears it grows so quickly that the prime time for picking passes very quickly--like in hours!.  The other bacteria are actually generally beneficial to Wine Cap growth.  Also, Wine Caps like to have at least some interaction with the soil, so I would let them get that access.  One of the reason I dug fertile holes for tomatoes is that I filled with topsoil and I found that indeed, the Wine Caps made better progress in the beginning when growing near and in between fertile holes.  Long story short, don't worry about sterilizing the substrate.  Actually, compost is one of Wine Caps' friends.  Wine Caps are like mushrooms for beginners complete with training wheels and grow well where other mushrooms would never make it.  Finally, I personally don't know of good Wine Cap sources in Europe, but I know they exist.  My thoughts for you are to actually call the company or at least email them and have a good conversation to judge whether or not they are a serious seller of spawn.  The website you linked to seemed like a good website from which to order, but that is just my guess.

S, really I think you are off to a good start so at this point I suspect that you need to figure out exactly where to drop the sawdust (and if it can't be at on a future garden bed, don't let that stop your Wine Caps soon.  Incidentally, what are your weather conditions like for the next couple of months and into the winter?  Depending on conditions this may be a prime time to grow the Wine Caps and you might get a nice crop by spring.  What a treat.

Good luck and please continue to keep us updated.  I love where this is project is going!

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Just wanted to give a quick update.
My sawdust is due to arrive next weekend. I haven't nearly managed to prepare all my beds, but I've got some spots already prepped for the sawdust.

I was wondering how important it is to remove all of the vegetation from the beds before adding the sawdust on top. Would the sawdust not simply smother the vegetation below anyway? Or would that interfere somehow with the mushrooms?

I've also got a nice bit of hay coming my way next week. I figured I could use some of it on top of the sawdust to prevent the sawdust from blowing away.
I also read that blue oysters and Parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera) which are native here, can grow on hay, so I might have a go at trying to inoculate of few of those bales as well. My main interest in the blue oysters, though, is that I've read they can grow on the wood of tree of heaven, which is a rather noxious invasive here. So once I've got a nice culture of Oysters going, I might try to grow them on tree of heaven as well.

For now I plan on spreading some sawdust underneath my fruit trees. This sloped plot gets full sun about half of the day. Some spots near the trees/hedge are more shaded and moist.
then I have a few spots on the north side of my property which is shaded for most of the time except for the height of summer, and wonderfully humid because of the presence of our creek (you can often see the mist hanging in those spots during summer). Then lastly I read Sepp Holzer's method on mushroom cultivation, where he plops a few bales of straw in his pond to soak up water and then pulls them onto the pond bank and inoculates them there. I want to try to do the same with some of my hay bales, where I'll put a few hay bales on the creek banks in half shade and inoculate them with the oysters. As for the parasol mushrooms, I've read those are soil dwelling mushrooms that like decomposing organic matter, so I'll try to grow them on a bed of hay (instead of a bale) on the ground

I took Eric's advice on making the most of the season and inoculating this fall already to get a head start. I found a nice german webshop selling spawn (https://www.pilzzuchtshop.eu), and decided to order my spawn so that when my sawdust arrives, I can inoculate it straight away, so I can hopefully have some mushrooms next spring/summer. I bought 5 kilos of Winecap grain spawn, 3 kilos of oyster spawn (on a straw/woodchips substrate) and 2 kilos of parasol mushrooms. I'm eager to see which varieties do best on my property. I do intend to try out a few different ways of propagating them (different spots on the property with different humidity and temperature, and different substrates), to see which do best.

One thing I'm wondering about is: do I need to worry about two plots of different mushrooms being too close to one another that the spores would cross contaminate the beds? I'm specifically thinking about the oysters out competing my parasol mushrooms, which are a bit more delicate and take longer to inoculate a a whole bed.

Any advice or feedback on my plans are greatly appreciated!
 
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Hi S,

Sounds like you are off to a great start and I look forward to seeing your progress.  I can comment on a couple of notes you made.

First, you asked if you need to worry about starting Wine Caps at one end of a bed and Blue Oysters at the other.  I think that you should only use one mushroom variety per bed.  The first bed I inoculated was 32' long (call it 10 meters or so).  I only had enough spawn to cover a bit less that half that bed, even though there were wood chips throughout the bed.  I would bet that I actually inoculated about 12' (a little less that 4 meters).  A year after I got mu first flush of mushrooms, I was finding fresh Wine Caps popping up throughout the other half that I was thinking about inoculating but never got around to doing so.  Long story short, the Wine Caps eventually colonized the whole bed, half of which was with no input by me.  I think if you started Wine Caps in one end of a be and Blue Oysters at the other, they would probably grow fine--for the first 6 months or so.  But at some point the two will meet and then wage a sort of chemical warfare against each other and the only winner is the actual wood that you are trying to break down in the first place.  Wine Caps and Oysters are just that aggressive that they will likely outcompete just about any other fungi out there except each other.  So my suggestion is to keep them in separate beds.

BTW, good that you are trying a variety of mushrooms!.  I have wanted to try Blue Oysters for some time now, but given that I was quick to spread Wine Caps to all three of my garden beds, I am not exactly certain where I should place them.  But since you are starting out and experimenting, you have all sorts of places to try out the different mushrooms.  Further on that note, Wine Caps were suggested to me because of their aggressive tendencies and the fact that they are a fairly bulletproof mushroom that thrives on neglect.  As much as I would like to try Blue Oysters, I don't have and personal experience, but I understand that they colonize at least as fast as Wine Caps and tend to establish in about half the time.  They may be more particular about things like moisture and sunlight (or other factors that I just don't know) but I don't know this with any certainty.  I may just be overcautious.  But nonetheless, many people like to grow them and I would love to hear about and learn from your experience, so please do keep us updated.

Also, it is great that you are trying the mushrooms in all sorts of different places.  Just keep in mind that when inoculating the chips with spawn, you do want a sort of critical mass as a starter.  I think of the inoculating process as kinda like a party.  one or two people there and the party is a flop.  But get more people there and the party starts rocking and more people come.  Just my thought is that when you inoculate, don't try to spread too thin.  Once that fungi party gets going, nothing is going to stop it, but it just needs a little boost to get going.

But overall, these turn of events is absolutely awesome!  I am loving this project and I anxiously await news on how it turns out.

Great job S, and I look forward to reading about updates in the future.

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Eric Hanson wrote:Hi S,

Sounds like you are off to a great start and I look forward to seeing your progress.  I can comment on a couple of notes you made.

First, you asked if you need to worry about starting Wine Caps at one end of a bed and Blue Oysters at the other.  I think that you should only use one mushroom variety per bed.  

Eric



Hi Eric, thanks for your wonderful feedback! I am very excited about this project.
What I intended with my question however was if I have for example a bed of hay inoculated with parasols and two bales of hay inoculated with oysters set at about 2 meters distance of the parasols, if the spores of the fruiting oysters could blow over to the much more slowly inoculating bed of parasols, causing the oysters to invade the separate bed.

Also would you wager the wine caps doing better in the more sunny warm plot or the north facing shady moist creek bed area?
 
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S,

I think if you have two separate bales of hay, then the mushrooms should do fine.  If you pick the mushrooms, you can really minimize the possibility of contaminating with spores.

As to your second question, yes, I would wager that the Wine Caps do best in the sunnier conditions.  Do your best to offer at least some shade (some straw should help), but yes, Wine Caps are pretty bulletproof.

One other thing to mention, you were questioning if you should clear out the weeds from the beds.  I would either pull them of lay down a barrier like cardboard or newspaper or something that the mushrooms will eventually eat.  I say this to protect your future garden crops, but the weed roots themselves will actually help the fungi get started.  But I would not recommend eradicating the weeds as eradication becomes a near impossible goal.  The phrase "perfection is the enemy of good enough" comes to mind here.

But at any rate, good luck and I really look forward to seeing how this works out.  You may get me into Blue Oysters after all.

Eric
 
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Hi Eric and S,

Thank you for the education. This was a great read, and it is a great example of why I value this site.
 
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John F Dean wrote:Hi Eric and S,

Thank you for the education. This was a great read, and it is a great example of why I value this site.



Hi John, I'm glad you found it interesting so far! I'll keep adding the progress of the mushroom sawdust experiment here, so hopefully I will be able to show you some results as well (or in the very least, if the experiment fails, I can show you how it should NOT be done!) ;-)

 
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S,

No experiment really fails.  If we get an unexpected result, at least we know something new or something that did not work.

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Hi Eric,

My spawn just arrived yesterday -- much sooner then I had expected it! Fortunately my sawdust arrived as well, but I still need to prep the beds first!
I read that spawn can be kept in the fridge for some time. Any experience with this?
 
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Hi S,

Yes, you can keep the spawn in the fridge.  I used to keep mine in a cool spot in the basement for short periods of time before using and it worked find.  Sure is great that the sawdust and spawn arrived so close to each other.

Exciting times!

Eric
 
S. Bard
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Yes , I’m very excited!
I’ve got 600 kg of sawdust now (that was the max loading capacity if the tractor that was small enough to carry the sawdust up on our narrow steep path to reach our property.
They came in two large big-bags, which is very handy because there is less chance of the sawdust being contaminated before I get the chance of inoculating it.

Looking forward to have a go at it next weekend!

I don’t have straw to cover the beds with, but I do have hay. Would that do the job as well?
024C5DAA-7912-4309-AC2C-9324DBBD68F9.jpeg
Hubby sitting atop the 300 kg big bags of sawdust
Hubby sitting atop the 300 kg big bags of sawdust
F3685EA5-E70B-483D-9C7D-BC844E91521F.jpeg
Little tractor having delivered the goodies.
Little tractor having delivered the goodies.
 
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S,

Generally straw is preferred over hay because straw will contain far fewer weeds.  But don't let that stop you, just bear in mind that you will have weed seed to content with.  My suggestion is to find newspaper, cardboard or something to smother the weeds.

Those huge bags of sawdust look amazing, but I bet you will go through them surprisingly quickly.  They will still do wonders for your garden soil and be great for tree rings.  Can you get more?

I really want to see what this looks like after next weekend.


Eric
 
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Yesterday was an exceptionally gorgeous day, so instead of waiting till the weekend (where they are expecting rain) I decided to head out to the plot already to do some of the first mushroom prep work.
I already took some spawn of the Parasol mushroom and the Blue oyster mushroom with me, because this spawn had a shorter shelf life than the Wine caps spawn, so I decided to get those inoculated in the beds first.

I took 2 kg of Parasol mushroom spawn and 1 Kg of the blue oysters (I still have 2 kg of the oysters left in the fridge) with me. I took care to put them in a cooler bag to keep their temperatures low while I was working to prep the beds, as I don't have means of refrigeration on the site yet and I didn't want the spawn to overheat too much.

I wanted to set up 3 experimental beds for this spawn in the most marginal piece of my property: a narrow, very humid small valley alongside the creek, that always keeps an even level of humidity throughout the year, and that is almost perpetually shaded, and of which the temperature is regulated by the presence of the creek. It is a noticeably cooler area during summer as the creek water is very cold, but during winter the creek also regulates the surrounding temperature making it less cold than the surrounding area. In spring this area is the first to have nice lush green grass growth where other areas the soil is still frozen. So basically the temperature in the area is buffered, keeping it more stable troughout the year and avoiding the warmest peaks in summer and the coldest frosts in winter. I think during the winter this is an ideal area for mushrooms. As for the summer, I hope the temperatures get high enough for the mushrooms to fruit. Worst case scenario I have to transport the innoculated substrate to a warmer spot during summer. We'll see.

I've tried 3 different bed setups for this spawn. First up is the Parasol mushroom spawn. The parasol mushroom is a soil dwelling mushroom that lives off of organic matter like leaves and died vegetation. Because of this it is one of the few mushrooms that should in theorie be able to grow on hay instead of straw or wood. I struck a bit of luck in my purchase of hay, as this hay came from beneath the edge treeline of a mountain pasture. Because of this, the hay bales also included forest material like lots of leaves and small twigs and even hazelnuts and acorns/ acorn caps. To me this seems like an ideal way to mimic the natural habitat of the parasol mushroom, that is a ground dwelling mushroom in deciduous forests. And perhaps I'll have a few oak seedlings next year to boot (I wouldn't mind as I wanted to get some oaks anyway).

For the first bed I tried the least labor intensive method: Building a hay bed on top of the soil. I'll try to write up the steps of prepping this bed for who is interested:

  • First up, I marked the edges of the beds by hammering in some wooden boards. These boards also functioned to keep the hay into place and to avoid the bed washing away into the creek with heavy rains (our ground is anything but flat so this is definitely a must!) The manufacturer of the spawn said 1 KG would be enough to inoculate one bale. So I made the plot roughly the same size as my bale.  
  • Some soil contact is still very important for the mycelium to spread into the soil, so I made sure to remove all of the grass sods and mosses beneath the bed first. I did not dig or till this plot as I wanted to try and disturb the soil life that is already present in this plot as least as possible. Hopefully an already active and healthy soil will be beneficial to these soil dwelling mushrooms.
  • I took a bale apart and spread a first layer on top of the soil. I thoroughly watered the hay and let it drain. I then added some spawn in 6 or so spots throughout the bed. I made sure to add a handful of the local soil to each spot of spawn. This wasn't something that was recommended by the manufacturer, but to me it seemed that some direct acces to the soil might provide some beneficial bacterial life to the mycelium. No idea if it will do any good.
  • I continued to do the lasagna method of adding a layer of hay, watering it, letting it drain, and then adding the spawn and a few handfuls of local soil. It would have been a lot better to have presoaked the bales, so the hay was thoroughly wet, and not just superficially. But there was a practical problem. I am a small woman. These bales weigh around 20-30 kg each. Once soaked they weigh easily double. Given our terrain is both very steep and very wild, there is currently no way to transport the bales in a cart or wheelbarrow. On my own, I was simply not able to transport the presoaked bales to where I wanted to prep the beds, without ruining my back over it. If we were with two people next time, it would be a lot more manageable to presoak and transport the bales though.
  • Once I did three layers of hay and spawn (and emptied my container of spawn), I topped everything with a last layer of straw and a small pallet on top to keep the hay from blowing away. In the end I only used half of the bale (these bales were packed seriously tight with material, and I didn't want to spread my spawn too tin, so I opted to use a little less hay instead. If I see that the beds are inoculating really fast I can always add more hay on top as the bed decreases in height over time.


  • For the second bed of parasol mushrooms I tried a slightly different method: partially burying the haybale

  • Again I hammered in some wooden boards to mark the edges of the bed and to avoid runoff.
  • I removed all of the sods and vegetation, then I dug a hole in the ground roughly the size of the remaining half bale. This was the recommended technique of the supplier of the spawn. the idea is that by introducing the hay below ground level, the mycelium can spread below the soil more easily. Their suggestion was to burry the bale completely so it would be level with the ground. I only dug about 20 cm, due to me hitting some large rocks at a deeper level that I couldn't get out. So some of the hay will be below ground while some of it will stick out.
  • Once I cleared the bed I spread a really thin layer of hay on the ground, watered it, let it drain and then introduced the first spots of spawn relatively closely to the soil. Then I plopped my remaining half hay bale on top of that first layer and watered it.
  • I inoculated the moist bale by using a stick to wedge a hole in the bale, push the spawn in, and then pushed the hole back closed with my hands. I made sure to inoculate the bale all around, and trying to get some spawn into the very center of the bale.
  • Finally I put all of the grass sods and vegetation I pulled from the bed back against the bale to maximize the contact with the local soil and root systems, filling all of the cracks with them and insulating the lower half of the bale beneath the ground.


  • The last method I tried was intended for my blue oyster spawn: inoculating a presoaked haybale. I will use 1 kg of the oyster spawn on this site. The other 2 kg I will try and introduce on another site where it is slightly warmer.

  • For this method I wanted to grow the oysters directly into the bale of hay. Straw would have been more ideal than hay, but given they are such prolific growers, and the hay also includes brown material like dried leaves and sticks, we can give it a go.
  • This time I did presoak the bale into the creek, as my intended spot for this bale was to put it right up to the creek bank. This area is still humid and shady, but receives a tiny bit of sunlight a few hours of the day.
  • I first prepped a small flat area next to the creek, where I could easily acces the water, but also make sure I could protect the bale from washing away with heavy rains. Some heavy rocks and a wooden board, and it's specific location sheltered by a large boulder should protect the bail from the normal heavy rains.
  • After soaking the bale i dragged it from the creek and then wiggle-walked the darn heavy thing into its spot. This is definitely a job that would be more pleasant with 2 people. Because also during the process of inoculation you have to turn the bale over a couple of times to inoculate it from all sides, and it is quite the back-breaker doing it by yourself.




  • Finally I started some prep work for the sawdust beds, by hammering in wooden boards as retaining walls, and leveling the terraces. I finished about 4 meters of beds yesterday, varying in width from about half a meter to a meter. These beds already have fruit trees and shrubs like seaberry planted in them, so I will add the sawdust around these trees, leaving a little circle open near the trunk of the trees to avoid rot setting in. These beds will be inoculated with the wine caps spawn.

    That's it for now. I am really curious how this is going to work out, and which methods will prove more functional than others. Any feedback on these systems is much appreciated.
    One thing I am however worried about was the state of the spawn I got. it was my understanding that I should see white mycelium strands running throughout the spawn. With the Blue oyster spawn I saw a tiny bit of it in some of the chunky bits of sawdust (maybe like 10% of the total volume of sawdust had some white strands in them). But in the parasol substrate I did not see any evidence of mycelium at all. is this normal, or should I be worried?
    I contacted the supplier to verify if this is normal. Here's hoping my mycelium didn't die during shipment!

    Now the waiting game begins!
    I'll keep you posted on the progress of the other beds!

    IMG_1546.jpg
    The site location in the narrow valley created by the creek: shaded, moist and fertile
    The site location in the narrow valley created by the creek: shaded, moist and fertile
    IMG_1548.jpg
    Boarding up the two beds for the Parasol mushrooms and removing the grass and vegetation
    Boarding up the two beds for the Parasol mushrooms and removing the grass and vegetation
    IMG_1555.jpg
    Adding a layer of straw to the first bed and dropping a few spots of spawn substrate and a handful of local soil. This was continued for three layers
    Adding a layer of straw to the first bed and dropping a few spots of spawn substrate and a handful of local soil. This was continued for three layers
    IMG_1563.jpg
    Topping up the bed with a final layer of hay and a wood pallet to weigh the hay down
    Topping up the bed with a final layer of hay and a wood pallet to weigh the hay down
    IMG_1558.jpg
    The second bed was dug about 20 cm below ground. A first thing layer of hay was spread into the hole
    The second bed was dug about 20 cm below ground. A first thing layer of hay was spread into the hole
    IMG_1560.jpg
    Again a few heaps of spawn was placed on to pof the hay.
    Again a few heaps of spawn was placed on top of the hay.
    IMG_1561.jpg
    Adding the spawn to the bale by ramming it in with a stick
    Adding the spawn to the bale by ramming it in with a stick
    IMG_1566.jpg
    Putting back all of the sods and vegetation I pulled from the plot to fill in the gaps of the bed around the bale
    Putting back all of the sods and vegetation I pulled from the plot to fill in the gaps of the bed around the bale
    IMG_1568.jpg
    For the third method I presoaked a bale of hay in the creek and prepped a spot on the bank to place the bale
    For the third method I presoaked a bale of hay in the creek and prepped a spot on the bank to place the bale
    IMG_1571.jpg
    Putting the bale in place and innoculating it with Blue Oyster spawn
    Putting the bale in place and innoculating it with Blue Oyster spawn
    IMG_1578.jpg
    The location of the hay bale with the two other beds visible higher up
    The location of the hay bale with the two other beds visible higher up
    IMG_1580.jpg
    Covering the bale with a bit of black plastic to protect it from the rains we are expecting next week.
    Covering the bale with a bit of black plastic to protect it from the rains we are expecting next week.
    IMG_1551.jpg
    The parasol spawn not showing any mycelium
    The parasol spawn not showing any mycelium
    IMG_1576.jpg
    The Blue oyster spawn showing some small strands of mycelium
    The Blue oyster spawn showing some small strands of mycelium
    IMG_1592.jpg
    A quick and dirty way of boarding up the sawdust beds in the orchard
    A quick and dirty way of boarding up the sawdust beds in the orchard
     
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    Eric, and S. - Please describe the temperatures through the seasons that your spawned beds will experience. Thanks!
     
    S. Bard
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    Randal Son wrote:Eric, and S. - Please describe the temperatures through the seasons that your spawned beds will experience. Thanks!



    Hi Randal. I haven't taken out a thermometer to take readings yet, but I would estimate these beds will endure about 0 degrees Celsius during winter (hopefully!), perhaps in extreme cases dipping to -4 during the night. As for the summer I'm estimating around 20 degrees Celcius. I will try to verify these estimates coming seasons with readings.
     
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    Randal,

    I will try to give you an approximation of the temperatures I had throughout the seasons my first year.  These are not recorded temperatures, but rather my approximate recollection and all temperatures are in Fahrenheit.

    As I recall, the entire year was fairly mild for us, more so than usual.  I started the spawn in April when the temperatures dipped into the low 40’s and peaked in about the low 80’s.  At this point the wood chip bed was in full sun.

    Summers for my area are typically very hot and humid, sometimes making me not want to venture outside at all, but again, this was not a bad year with the highs in the mid 90s and the lows in th 70s.  By this point the tomatoes had grown tall enough to really shade the wood chips so the spawn got some protection.from the sun.  During this time, I did not really check on spawn growth as I was pretty certain not much was going on.

    Fall temperatures were much like spring temperatures, and when I poked around the chips, they were plainly decaying a bit and there was some white mycelial strands starting to grow but no mushrooms.  I assume that the fungi was mostly dormant over the summer heat, though there was some growth.

    December temperatures were very mild that year, only rarely dipping below freezing and then never for very long.  The chips decayed a lot during this month with the individual chips themselves becoming very soft and the whole mass of chips feeling almost like a soft mattress and the overall height of the chip bed dropped several inches so I knew the fungi were active.  January was colder as was February when we got just a little bit of snow.

    The next spring was very wet and mild, with lows in the 40s and 50s and the highs in the 60s to 70s.  By late April I got my first actual mushroom, a tiny one, but briefly later in May, the mushrooms were popping up all over the bed, literally growing faster than I could pick them.  The total fruiting season lasted about a month.

    On a side note, my bed was about 32’ long by 6’ wide and I only inoculated about 12’.  By the next fall, I saw mushrooms pop up at the middle about 4’ away from where I Inoculated, so the fungi was on the move.  By the next spring mushrooms were popping up in the half of the bed that I did not Inoculate and in fact ignored.  It had wood chips, but not as many, perhaps 6” as opposed to 12+ inches on the first half.  Nonetheless, during spring numerous mushrooms popped up at least 12 feet from where I actually sowed the fungus so the entire bed, including the 20’ that I basically ignored, is now inoculated.

    I hope this post helps answers your question and if you have any other questions, fire away.

    Eric
     
    Randal Son
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    Thanks to you both.

    I'm Zone 5b/6a, with minimums of 0 F possible, but typically winter days run a freeze thaw cycle - low 25 F. high 35-40. Summers are hot and dry, 100s and 15% humidity possible, almost no rain mid June to October. Annual precip is 40 inches, though.

    Looks like I will have to generate some microclimates, and work with the naturally occurring fungi that have survived here.
     
    Eric Hanson
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    Randal,

    for comparison purposes, I am in zone 6b.  We can get sub zero temps, but that is rare and we do get above 100 in the summer occasionally.  Our humidity is positively dreadful though.  We call that hot and humid weather the "air that you wear" and I can't remember the last time we had humidity as low as 15%.  In fact, humidity in the 30% range is a more typical norm and in the heat of the summer, humidity 70-80% is not uncommon with occasional periods of 90% humidity.

    So we have somewhat similar temperatures but radically different humidity.  What this does for you is increase the need to keep your woodchips moist.  I think you will want to check on a regular basis for moisture and add additional water on a regular basis, especially during the summer.

    Good luck and I hope this helps,

    Eric
     
    Randal Son
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    Within the irrigated area I can supply water, yeah, and grow culinary types. I want to encourage more decay on the floor of the woodlot 3 acres though, ironically to retain more water. Will be trying a variety of experiments the next couple years.
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